Friday, December 13, 2013

Gold Diggers of 1933

Kultakalat 1933 / Guldfiskar. US 1933. PC: Warner Bros. P: Robert Lord, Jack L. Warner. Assoc. P: Raymond Griffith. Supervisor: Robert Lord. D: Mervyn LeRoy. SC: Erwin S. Gelsey, James Seymour – based on the play (1919) by J. Avery Hopwood - additional dialogue: David Boehm, Ben Markson. DP: Sol Polito. AD: Anton Grot. Cost: Orry-Kelly. Makeup: Perc Westmore. Choreography (numbers created and directed by): Busby Berkeley. M: Harry Warren. Al Dubin. Conductor (Vitaphone Orchestra): Leo G. Forbstein. The production numbers: "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're In the Money)", “Pettin’ In The Park”, “The Shadow Waltz”, “Remember My Forgotten Man”. [Production number cut before release: “I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song” - in the released film played during the opening credits, sung by Dick Powell, and played as dance music]. ED: George Amy. C: Ruby Keeler (Polly Parker, the ingenue), Joan Blondell (Carol King, the torch singer), Aline MacMahon (Trixie Lorraine, the comedienne), Dick Powell ("Brad Roberts" = Robert Treat Bradford, singer and songwriter), Warren William (J. Lawrence Bradford, Brad's brother), Guy Kibbee (Fanuel H. Peabody, the Bradford family lawyer), Ned Sparks (Barney Hopkins, the producer), Ginger Rogers (Fay Fortune, the glamour puss), Clarence Nordstrom (Don the juvenile lead ["I've been a juvenile for 18 years"], suffering from lumbago), Robert Agnew (balettimestari), Tammany Young (Eddie), Sterling Holloway, Ann Hovey, Barbara Rogers, Pat Wing, Loretta Andrews, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Etta Moten (soloist in "Remember My Forgotten Man"), Billy Barty (the baby in "Pettin' In The Park"). Helsinki premiere: 25.12.1933 Kino-Palatsi, Astoria, Tähti, distributor: Warner Bros. – classification: 18100 – K16 – 96 min. A Cinematek (Brussels) print of a French edition (Chercheurs d'or) with title cards in French only, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 13 Dec 2013
    Previous film adaptations: The Gold Diggers (1923), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929).
    Sequels: Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937, Gold Diggers in Paris (1938).

Wikipedia: "The "gold diggers" are four aspiring actresses: Polly the ingenue (Ruby Keeler), Carol the torch singer (Joan Blondell), Trixie the comedienne (Aline MacMahon), and Fay the glamour puss (Ginger Rogers)."

Immediately after the success of 42nd Street Warner Bros. produced another musical in the same vein. This time Dick Powell plays the songwriter. His Boston blue blood family threatens to disinherit him if he marries the showgirl played by Ruby Keeler. Berkeley tops himself in four pathbreaking production numbers: Ginger Rogers clad only in silver coins ("We're In The Money"), loving couples drenched by rainstorm ("Pettin' In the Park"), a moving neon violin pattern formed by dancers in the dark ("The Shadow Waltz"), and the history of America from the Great War till the Great Depression ("My Forgotten Man").

A capitalist musical with a social conscience. I would list Gold Diggers of 1933 among the essential films about World War I, the Great Depression, and class society.

"We're In The Money" is an exposé about the fetishism of money, identifying money with sex, with a focus on Ginger Rogers's It.

"Pettin' In the Park" is a weird and wicked number which broadens in scope as it extends to cover the four seasons, including autumn storms and snow blizzards.

"The Shadow Waltz" is a phantasmagoria, an abstract study in extasy, based on spiral formations and stunning patterns of neon-lit violins in the dark.

"My Forgotten Man" is the climax that has been prepared since the beginning, an anthem "all about the depression", after having been "watching those men on the breadline", "the big parade of tears". The number starts as a march, reflecting the devastation of World War I, but it is also a blues, sung with a full throttle blues voice by Etta Moten and Ruby Keeler. We see military parades, wounded men, dead men, soup lines, streetwalkers, and homeless, unemployed, hungry bums.

Busby Berkeley's production numbers are brilliant, showing his range from abstraction to social commentary. The crew and the cast are terrific, but Mervyn LeRoy is not handling the romantic comedy scenes very well. All three good-hearted showgirls get married with Boston blue blood. Only the single real gold digger (Ginger Rogers) stays single. The token narrative is little more than a frame for the engrossing production numbers.

A duped safety print of a used print of the vintage French edition of the film with a duration of 92 min, yet offering a nice cinema experience of the great musical.

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